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RIAA-partner, PRS threatened to sue Sandra Burk, a British woman, for singing on the job. They eventually back down after a torrent of negative publicity.  (Source: BBC News)
Yet another example of irresponsible copyright enforcement rears its ugly head

From suing dead people, to attacking CD-burning of legally-owned content for personal use, to seeking damages against people who don't own a computer, it doesn't seem like there's many lows to which copyright protection organizations like the RIAA won't stoop.  However, a recent case involving the Performing Right Society (PRS) -- a British RIAA affiliate -- shows that even the most curmudgeonly copyright organization can occasionally come around, when faced with overwhelming public scorn.

The humorous tale involves the organization catching wind of a “heinous” offense -- an employee singing in public.  Sandra Burt, 56, who works at A&T Food store (a British supermarket) in Clackmannanshire, UK was told by organization representatives that she would likely face fines for lost royalties for her "performance". 

The debacle began earlier in the year when the PRS threatened the grocery store she worked at, telling them to ditch the radio that played in earshot of customers or pay royalty fees.  Missing the music, Ms. Burt decided to start singing some of her favorite tunes.  She describes, "I would start to sing to myself when I was stacking the shelves just to keep me happy because it was very quiet without the radio."

Then came new threats from the PRS.  Ms. Burt describes, "When I heard that the PRS said I would be prosecuted for not having a performance license, I thought it was a joke and started laughing.  I was then told I could be fined thousands of pounds. But I couldn't stop myself singing. They would need to put a plaster over my mouth to get me to stop, I can't help it."

Indeed, the woman, who describes herself as a Rolling Stones fan and classic rocker, refused to stop singing.  BBC News caught wind of the story and published a piece on it.

The reaction was instant, with many writing furious letters to the PRS.  Facing an overwhelming outpouring of public vehemence, the PRS backed down, as the RIAA occasionally has.  They sent her a bouquet of flowers as an apology and said she had their permission to keep singing.  The note read, "We're very sorry we made a big mistake.  We hear you have a lovely singing voice and we wish you good luck."



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Lost royalties?
By Schrag4 on 10/23/2009 9:14:14 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
...was told by organization representatives that she would likely face fines for lost royalties for her "performance".


I was going to go out and buy that CD, but some lady was singing one of the songs so I think I'm good. Oh, and thankfully I did't have to go see that new movie because some neighborhood kids were acting it out in their yard.</sarcasm>

Seriously, though, don't these people give their argument a once-over/sanity-check? Only a complete D-Bag would go after someone for singing in public (in what's obviously a NON-performance) claiming lost royalties.




RE: Lost royalties?
By lagitup on 10/23/2009 9:29:19 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Seriously, though, don't these people give their argument a once-over/sanity-check?


Now you've heard about the radio-as-public-performance thing, yeah? Just like when the RIAA sued that dead peron, there's no way in hell they didn't know what would happen ahead of time. But they were in the news as a result, many "joe the plumbers" heard all about the other RIAA lawsuits where people lost more money than they would make in their lives.

Its a disgusting publicity stunt.


RE: Lost royalties?
By DougF on 10/23/2009 11:44:43 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Just like when the RIAA sued that dead peron...


Juan or Evita?


RE: Lost royalties?
By amanojaku on 10/23/2009 10:48:14 AM , Rating: 5
You fool! Don't you know how much money George Lucas lost because of Lightsaber Guy? Hell, everytime someone whips out a glow stick I take a picture for his lawyers.

Seriously, though, a ban on radios and singing in public places? If the RIAA tries that crap here in the States that would be the last thing it ever did.


RE: Lost royalties?
By acase on 10/23/2009 11:14:41 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure that it is from pressure of the RIAA or not...but my fiance works at a Regions Bank, and they were told a few months ago that they were no longer allowed to play the radio where customers could hear it due to copyright infringement.


RE: Lost royalties?
By ClownPuncher on 10/23/2009 12:10:00 PM , Rating: 5
Sounds like a good time to be a gun owner.


RE: Lost royalties?
By stirfry213 on 10/23/2009 1:12:42 PM , Rating: 4
What is the difference between 1 public radio playing so that 100 people can hear it and 100 private radios playing so that 100 people can hear it? So is the RIAA/RPS gonna go after every punk and their brother for playing their car radios loud enough for others to hear it?

If you were charging people to listen to your radio... I could see that. Otherwise, I can't think of anything else to say about this other than... what the f*ck?


RE: Lost royalties?
By Jalek on 10/23/2009 11:24:05 PM , Rating: 2
They could just put lawyers on every streetcorner and they can run over to the window of any car playing music loud enough to be audible from the sidewalk and demand money.

I think there's a name for that already though..


RE: Lost royalties?
By ssjwes1980 on 10/24/2009 7:34:09 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry but where Im from you dont run up to peoples open windows on the street especially if there rides bumpin


RE: Lost royalties?
By Camikazi on 10/24/2009 10:51:10 PM , Rating: 2
Not even lawyers are dumb enough to make themselves targets like that :P Although it would drop the number of lawyers tremendously very quickly. Forget roadkill clean up, will need lawyer street cleanup!


RE: Lost royalties?
By BladeVenom on 10/23/2009 12:02:53 PM , Rating: 2
ASCAP and BMI do that all the time in the USA. You play a radio at work were more than just you can hear it, and the copyright Nazis will be all over you. They spy on businesses all the time.


RE: Lost royalties?
By mmmesq on 10/25/2009 8:27:02 PM , Rating: 2
Bottom line, in the US no one would likely try to collect for performing rights from an employee singing in a store, unless that was the attraction.

1) ASCAP/BMI/SESAC are the US equivalent of PRS. They represent the public performance rights song writers/publishers, rather than the rights of recording artists/record companies.

2) I used to be more up on this, but see http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf for U.S. Copyright basics, and the exclusive right to "perform the work publicly". Other copyrights include: copying, displaying, distributing.

Regarding public performances, the idea used to be in the US, if a store or public place had a sound/PA system that was more than would typically be found in a home, then they would need to be properly licensed by ASCAP/BMI/SESAC (so your clerk at 7-11 with a boom box behind the counter is fine, but Bloomingdales fancy storewide system would require proper licensing, since they choose music as a benefit to the business). Each of those 3 performing rights societies maintains a large catalog of songs to collect performing rights income (e.g., from radio stations), so each song doesn't have to be licensed separately - imagine each radio station negotiating with every music publisher. Muzak is a central clearing house for song/publishing rights in a similar way, but since they create their own recordings, they do not also have to license anything from the recording artists/record companies. Note: If you are a songwriter who isn't also an artist, then public performance royalties may be an important part of your income.

It's easy to beat up PRS, who represents copyright owners, who in turn represent song writers, who often do not receive much income, especially when they do STUPID stuff like this, but it's worth keeping in mind how much money that might go to song writers and recording artists has evaporated in the past decade. Unlicensed use of music certainly hurts the music companies, who may have needed a shock to evolve and are certainly guilty of taking advantage of writers/artists, but it does hurt the creative folks too.


RE: Lost royalties?
By TSS on 10/23/2009 12:11:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
telling them to ditch the radio that played in earshot of customers or pay royalty fees.


In supermarkets here in holland there's always some sort of background music playing from the speaker system also used for the announcements. I'd wager this music costs licencing fees.

If you set up a radio (which you probably also pay listen fees to) then crank it up, more people hear it so it should cost more. That's what the PRS was saying and the store opted to ban the radio.

The point of this explanation is not to justify it (as i think it's idiotic) but i'm willing to bet this is already the case in america as well. And for quite a while, too.

The singing part... well... Somebody probably got a bit zealous there. But don't think for a second the RIAA wouldn't do it if they had the chance.


RE: Lost royalties?
By Redwin on 10/23/2009 12:48:56 PM , Rating: 2
Most of the music in the stores is "Muzak".. elevator-ish music made from real songs. The first time I heard the muzak version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in a grocery store was the first time I felt "old", lol. The licensing fees are probably lower for those versions, but you're right they DO pay licensing fees.

As for employees singing in the workplace, and that not happening in America... lol. Next time you're at a family restaurant and its someone's birthday and the servers come sing to them.. listen to what they sing. It WON'T be the traditional "Happy Birthday Song" normal people would sing to their kids or whatever, because its actually copyrighted, and they'd be sued... EXACTLY as this woman in Britain was being... for singing copyrighted songs in a business where customers could hear.

*Note, I'm not at ALL agreeing with this, I think copyright enforcement on singing is asinine in any country, just wanted to point out the state of things here in the US is pretty much identical.


RE: Lost royalties?
By PlasmaBomb on 10/23/2009 3:39:51 PM , Rating: 5
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You

How the hell was copyright granted on a song that had already been in existence for at least 23 years?

Also wouldn't the copyright belong to whoever first published it, since the book would have been copyrighted? (Children's Praise and Worship, Byers et al., 1928)

Also the copyright being valid for 95 years is stupid.

The purpose of copyrights is
quote:
to promote the progress of science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.


Having it set at 95 years promotes sitting on your behind collecting royalties.


RE: Lost royalties?
By JediJeb on 10/23/2009 5:59:24 PM , Rating: 2
It is true though. There was a story a few years ago about summer camps having to be careful about what song they sang around campfires as several were copyrighted and if caught they would have to pay royalities. I doubt many true artist would want their music so controlled, but when corporations and investors are allowed to obtain copyrights to others works ( just like Michael Jackson buying the rights to the Beatles Music) this is the type of thing that happens. Copyright law needs to be reformed so that only the author of a work, can own copyright to the material. Even if this was for the life of the artist, I would be ok with that, just as long as others could not profit from someone elses works.


RE: Lost royalties?
By BenSkywalker on 10/24/2009 2:06:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Most of the music in the stores is "Muzak".. elevator-ish music made from real songs. The first time I heard the muzak version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in a grocery store was the first time I felt "old", lol. The licensing fees are probably lower for those versions, but you're right they DO pay licensing fees.


Muzak is a lot like satellite radio, while you can certainly find painful elevator music, they have everything from that to heavy/thrash metal and gangsta rap(both of those unedited). Flipping through Muzak you can go from KennyG to Beyonce to Pantera to elevator music in a few button presses. Not promoting Muzak by any means, it is incredibly expensive and not even close to a good value, just pointing out the system offers a lot more then what most retailers decide to use.


RE: Lost royalties?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/23/2009 11:08:59 AM , Rating: 2
Easy issue to resolve. Let's see, 100% royalties on $0 income for performance, um, carry the one, that adds up to... got it, $0. I'll send you a check.


RE: Lost royalties?
By Redwin on 10/23/2009 12:54:44 PM , Rating: 2
ah, but you FORGET!!!

As has been proven by the RIAA, et al... even if you charge nothing FOR it, when your audience hears you sing it, they may no longer feel as inclined to buy the CD (Hey I don't need that digital copy of the artist singing my favorite song, I can go to the supermarket and hear the checkout girl sing it for free any time!) Therefore, even a free performance could result in lost revenue.

</sarcasm>

Its funny because its really the law. :(


The new penal Isle?
By WoWCow on 10/23/2009 9:26:34 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
They sent her a bouquet of flowers as an apology and said she had their permission to keep singing. The note read, "We're very sorry we made a big mistake. We hear you have a lovely singing voice and we wish you good luck


So you need permission now to express yourself on the isle? By an entity that isn't even the government?

Also, I don't know what's more stupid: the fact the RIAA of Britain basically took out their own music advertisement by taking down the radio in the store or the fact they tried to sue someone who did nothing to illegally possess and/or distribute their pieces of shit.

If anything, it was the RIAA who took away everything from them in the first place and the store should be allowed to sue them for lost business.




RE: The new penal Isle?
By mrteddyears on 10/23/2009 10:54:05 AM , Rating: 2
Dont forget the UK is the only place in the world where you can be sent to jail for having a TV


RE: The new penal Isle?
By DougF on 10/23/2009 11:53:23 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, for not paying your TV tax. Anyone can have a TV, they just have to pay a tax to operate it. And the logic is that having a TV is equivalent to operating it, ergo TV owners must pay the Telly Tax. And no, the excuse of "It's only on for the budgie", doesn't cut it. I do recall a Scotsman who had to prove he had no television set in his home because the gov't believed everyone MUST have a telly, therefore everyone MUST PAY. But, he was able to prove his case and the gov't had to back down.


RE: The new penal Isle?
By geddarkstorm on 10/23/2009 1:42:14 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry, but that's just all sorts of screwed up. What's so incredible about turning on a TV to capture publicly blasted waves that requires a friggin operation tax? You already pay for the electricity.. for the materials in the construction (when you bought it).. so.. what are you being taxed over, the loss of energy in the broadcast from you intercepting and viewing it? Cripes. This has got to be one of the most draconian, stupid things I've ever heard. And the British people allowed this?

It's no surprise they can try to fine someone for SINGING with that sorta crap going on willy nilly.


RE: The new penal Isle?
By PlasmaBomb on 10/23/2009 3:43:39 PM , Rating: 3
The BBC is funded by the TV licence in the UK.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_licence


RE: The new penal Isle?
By Helbore on 10/24/2009 3:34:26 PM , Rating: 1
I know that, I live in the UK!


RE: The new penal Isle?
By Helbore on 10/23/2009 12:14:00 PM , Rating: 2
Not true. One, you only need a TV license if you are receiving broadcast television programs. ie. terrestrial, cable, sattelite. If you only have it connected to a DVD or video player, or are using it as a PC monitor, you don't need a license. (You also need a license if you are recording broadcast signals, but don't have a TV set)

Two, you can't be sent to prison for failing to pay your license. You can, however, be sent to prison for refusing to pay the court-imposed fine that you received for not paying your TV license.

So, no, you can't be sent to jail for having a TV.


RE: The new penal Isle?
By Fritzr on 10/24/2009 4:25:39 AM , Rating: 2
The tricky part is proving that the TV with builtin tuner is not being used to pick up the broadcast signal. Once you prove the tuner is broken and cannot pick up the unencrypted Over the Air broadcast that the telly tax pays for then you're ok.

It is easy to find unlicensed tellies in use. I remember seeing the truck that is used to locate operating unlicensed radio receivers back in the early 70's. Enforcement of the telly tax is nothing new.


The world is losing their mind.
By SDBettas on 10/23/2009 9:01:49 AM , Rating: 2
It's hard to believe things like this could happen in the land of the Magna Carta




RE: The world is losing their mind.
By JS on 10/23/2009 10:14:01 AM , Rating: 2
The Magna Carta was just a piece of chewing gum on a bedspread in Dorset.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5H6AdKUthg


Has this ever been tried?
By HighWing on 10/23/2009 6:23:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
when the PRS threatened the grocery store she worked at, telling them to ditch the radio that played in earshot of customers or pay royalty fees.


I'm just wondering here, but has anyone tried to challenge this act based on the simple fact that the radio stations is already paying the royalty fees for the "masses" to listen to it for free?

I mean seriously I can't believe they can get away with that. Just hypothetical here, but would the case be any different if everyone in the store was walking around with a radio tuned to the same station? What would they do then?




RE: Has this ever been tried?
By JS on 10/24/2009 8:52:27 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know about American or British laws, but I do know that in Sweden the music in the radio broadcasts is licensed for private reception and consumption. The radio broadcaster pays a royalty to the music creators to be able to play their music on the airwaves.

If someone "re-broadcasts" it, i.e. plays it out loud to a lot of people in a store or public space, it is considered a kind of public performance and you need to pay royalties for the music being played (again). Theoretically, I don't think you can even play a cd in your own store without paying royalties.

I do believe the fees involved are generalized, i.e. there is a blanket fee you pay every year for being able to play all the music you want in your store.


Open source
By carniver on 10/23/2009 1:13:05 PM , Rating: 3
We need GPL protected, freely available to public music these days




Permission
By mich0311 on 10/24/2009 11:01:08 PM , Rating: 3
"They sent her a bouquet of flowers as an apology and said she had their permission to keep singing."

the wording of "their permission" really bugs me. Seems like copyright laws lead right down the road to 1984, and the fact that some corporation has the right to decide whether one can sing inconspicuously is ridiculous.

Unless a fellow employee thought her singing was annoying and ran this up as a complaint.




These companies are like the mob...
By iFX on 10/26/2009 3:16:35 AM , Rating: 3
They come into your store and extort you. Refuse to pay and they will hurt you with a lawsuit.




By mmntech on 10/23/2009 11:03:44 AM , Rating: 2
extortion |ik'stôr sh ?n|
noun
the practice of obtaining something, esp. money, through force or threats




facepalm
By Randomblame on 10/23/2009 12:12:57 PM , Rating: 2
Alright boys this is what we've been waiting for it's time to shed our clothes and wear two sided signs that say the end is here.




By zodiacfml on 10/23/2009 3:36:43 PM , Rating: 2
Geez, the woman or the store does not make profit out of this.




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